Can You Leave Linux for Half-Price Solaris?

NEW YORK — Sun Microsystems President and COO Jonathan Schwartz declared war on Red Hat Linux on Intel-based x86 machines in an attempt to woo financial services customers.

At the quarterly Network Computer event in New York City Tuesday, themed “Take Back
Wall Street
,” Schwartz unveiled new migration programs to woo and wean
customers off of Linux and Xeon processors from Intel, currently offered by
rivals such as IBM , HP and Dell . The COO instead said that running Solaris on AMD’s Opteron servers is a more cost-effective, higher-performing choice.

Using a shopping metaphor, Schwartz said the company’s goal is to regain market share lost after the dot-com bubble burst and Sun “had nothing left on the shelves” to offer customers once they turned to commodity machines to cut costs.

Once a Wall Street darling, the company’s growth depreciated in 2002 and 2003 but is now on the upswing, which Schwartz attributed to the fact that Sun is checking off its customers’ “shopping list” by offering Solaris on several platforms, commodity hardware, interoperability with other software and next-generation pricing models.

In one such program, the executive said Sun is asking customers to replace Xeon-powered machines with Sun Opteron systems for cash credits. For example, a customer could trade in an IBM eServer x365 machine for an Sun V20z server and save as much as $1,250.

In another example, the Santa Clara, Calif., company is offering a Solaris license at half price if customers move from Linux to Solaris.

The company said such cost-saving offerings signal Sun is breaking out of its steely mold of justifying competitive server prices with performance, another recurring theme left over from the company’s dot-com hey-day, when it ruled data centers on Wall Street.

Recalling the Pepsi-versus-Coca-Cola challenge of the early ’90s, Schwartz also offered prospective customers the chance to take the Sun-Opteron challenge on the Sun Fire V20z to gauge performance improvements. If customers like what they see, they would be entitled to purchase hardware and software at a discount.

For those customers who insist on using Linux, Schwartz announced Linux support “twenty-four-by-seven” for any day, any time. The move is a sign that Sun is learning to live with — if not embrace– the enormously popular operating system.

Moreover, Schwartz said that when Solaris 10 becomes available this November, it would cost about $700 per CPU to run Solaris on x86 compared to $1000
per CPU for running Linux on x86.

In an example of how its Java Enterprise System (JES) middleware stacks up against rival IBM, Schwartz asserted that an organization with 2,000 employees, 500 partners and 10 million customers would cost that enterprise $600,000 per year, thanks the company’s model for offering JES at $100 per employee per year.

A comparable IBM WebSphere offering, he estimated, could cost as much as $10 million for the same duration.

The crux of Schwartz’ argument was that Sun is the best choice if customers want the highest performing servers to run their enterprise applications, which, in the financial services sector, usually consists of software that can process millions of transactions in second.

His reason for this? The executive highlighted the fact that Sun is the only systems vendor that sells its own standalone operating system, giving it a significant advantage over IBM, HP or Dell, all of which rely on Microsoft’s Windows, or Red Hat or Novell SUSE Linux.

Schwartz argued the fact that Sun can weld its software infrastructure so tightly to its hardware systems gives it a leg up in terms of the way servers are tuned to handle massive workloads and bandwidth-intensive applications.

While Schwartz touched on the migration programs and new business models most, Schwartz made it clear technology is still Sun’s bread and butter. The executive unveiled a utility computing model in which customers can purchase grid computing resources “by the drink” for $1 per CPU per hour.

Schwartz also showed the company’s nascent new chip multithreading technology, code-named “Niagara.” An 8-core UltraSPARC architecture, the chip can power 32-way machines even though it comes in a two-processor form. It does so at 56 watts per chip, promising to give customers the performance they require in a compact form factor that consumes less power.

He later briefly discussed the Sun Nauticus Switch, a new virtual switch technology he said would “extend the server into the network.” The technology is based on the company’s acquisition of Nauticus Networks earlier this year.

“Our shelves are stocked with hardware and software,” Schwartz said, completing his shopping metaphor.

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